Ocean Beach Is Test Site for New Police Surveillance Tower-Van

by on December 1, 2011 · 24 comments

in Civil Rights, Ocean Beach, Popular

On Tuesday, November 29th, the San Diego Police Department used Ocean Beach as their test site for the brand new surveillance tower that when used, rises 25 feet out of its mother ship, a supped-up van. Apparently, if the tower works at the beach, it can be used everywhere.

“San Diego is a coastal community,” police Lt. Andra Brown told the media. “We have to know that if it’s a piece of equipment that can be utilized everywhere… that it can be used on the beach.”

Officially called the Mobile Utility Surveillance Tower (MUST), the platform or pod can be quickly raised when police want to survey or spy on the citizenry in just a few minutes, and it can be operated by just one officer.  Once up, the tower has a 360-degree view.

 “You’ve got elevated eyes for command and control at any sort of scene whether it’s a crime scene [or] a disaster,” Brown said.

Bought by police with grant money for $200,000, it operates on a lithium ion battery and can stand up to 40 mile an hour winds, so OB was chosen not for its unruly and criminally-behaving crowds, but for the winds. Police say they will share the surveillance tower-van with other regional law enforcement agencies. It does not need a trailer to be towed, unlike the police department’s other surveillance towers.

Brown stated that police hope to have the tower operational before New Year’s. She added:

“The beauty of the new Terra Hawk piece of equipment is that from the time you park it, it’s up and deployed in two or three minutes.”

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

John Rippo December 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Where do these grants come from? Homeland Security? Why?


Hooligan. December 3, 2011 at 12:24 am

Why??? Damn good question.


OB Mercy December 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm

On one hand it makes me feel safe, and on the other hand it feels very Big Brotherish! I’m conflicted.


Hooligan. December 3, 2011 at 12:34 am

It doesn’t make me feel safe at all. We used to criticize the Soviet Union for being a Police State. I wonder if they felt safe?
Welcome to the 24 hours surveillance state. We have cameras on every street corner. There are GPS systems in your phone and car.
The Senate just passed a bill that says you can be detained indefinitely with no charges or trial. Peaceful protesters are confronted with police in riot gear using chemical weapons like pepper spray and now more military hardware like their sound canons that they assured us were only for use in places like Afghanistan. Now this at the beach where you might hope to get away from all this!


Big Finance Capital Exposed December 1, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Welcome to the surveillance state where the citizens are an open book and the government keeps its Secretary of the Army Pentagon luncheons with al Qaeda terrorists secret…


Anwar graduated from SDSU with a masters in organizational leadership – the fake establishment media doesn’t like to tout the credentials of Pentagon guests and terror “masterminds.”


He’s also the poster boy for American government claiming the right to assassinate American citizens – no trial, no jury, no evidence.

Oh, but they will be checking your children for future pentagon lunch guests in their pants when they fly, travel by bus or even when they drive in their car (TSA has moved to the streets now).

All while the banks launder $10s or $100s of million in Sinaloa drug cartel money and the government provided them (Sinaloa) with all the guns required to run their operation – and made deals so that they (Sinaloa) could bring their product into the US with no fear of intervention…


The mega banks own the private prisons… and they need them filled in order to maximize their profits.

Make sense now?


Hooligan. December 3, 2011 at 12:26 am

Yeah it all makes sense now.


Debbie December 2, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Couldn’t they just rent a cherry picker when they need to see?….waste of money. Build a needed bathroom, finish the entry, sweep the end of Newport on a daily basis it looks dirty…..do something useful with our tax dollars AKA “grants”. Someone is getting rich of our tax dollars $200,000 for this?


Hooligan. December 3, 2011 at 12:37 am

What else could we buy for $200,000? Not that we need anything in this city. We already have helicopters for when someone robs a liquor store. ( I have literally seen this!)


jim grant December 3, 2011 at 7:38 am

I spoke with head of lifeguards, PIO for Search & Rescue, SDPD and other first responders they think this will serve a need. Maybe they are misinformed.
These are mobile and can hit trouble areas pretty quickly and move to another area with little fan-fare.


Debbie December 3, 2011 at 8:57 am

I am not convinced that this survellience tower is the best option for search and rescue…how is it better than the helicopters we already have and pay for? Was this on the top priority list for lifeguards, PIO, SDPD or it is just a way to may somebody’s buddy a few bucks and deminish privacy…..I do not want to see it on OB beaches so some lifeguard can gauke at chicks and talk on his cell phone! If it’s present there better be an emergency! Just one opinion.


Hooligan. December 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Search and rescue?? Give me a break. That’s just ridiculous. At least they could come up with a better cover story for total police surveillance than that.


jim grant December 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Search and Rescue covers a lot of ground you might have not known that.


jim grant December 3, 2011 at 9:13 am

i dont think this is a search and rescue tool primarily. Not interested in a debate over privacy either it is what it is.
You might want to spend a few precious minutes talking with first responders before making your mind up.
FYI: search and rescue covers a very broad spectrum.
Another thing i noticed and this might not mean anything to you but it did for 6-8 people I talked to when this was being tested. We noticed that the riff raff who collect on the seawall and sell heroin , meth and the like ran like scared cats when the tower went up. with the height on the tower SDPD can look at activity that is difficult to see on foot.
my opinion.


Debbie December 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Please don’t tell me what I should do. I have an opinion. My opinion is my opinion and fyi I do know lifeguards and cops and we chit chat about alot of stuff. As for the wall…that area down there looks like hell ….a parking lot with a police trailer in the middle, a crumbling seawall, an obsolete swimming hole, sidewalks full of sand and dirt, trash barrels overflowing….So when this piece of apparatus gets placed on our beach the drug dealers are pushed into our neighborhoods (GREAT!). $200,000 to watch punks sell dope?……how about getting a full-time cop at wall…pay a salary instead of something probably made overseas? Again, just my opinion.


Mert Erel December 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm

You’re right Debbie. I agree with Ron Paul and the war on drugs is an utter failure and waste of money which this proves!


jonnyQ December 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm

So the truth is finally told, it has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with busting drug users. Just like everything else that is being passed off as a national security device. In case you are unaware, this is the definition of totalitarianism.

Loss of freedom will hurt this country way more than any drug ever could.


Mert Erel December 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Well, I’m not against the idea because it could be used in disaster areas and such where 360 degree view of things 40 feet in the air to coordinate emergency efforts may be a good thing!

I think my main beef would really be if this thing would cost $200,000? It seems to me like I could of gotten a van, some metal, a good welder, and other such things and paid someone from a tech school like $20,000 to design and build it and he would be stoaked. I can see it costing in the range of $50,000. Now let’s ask the question where the other $150,000 went?

I think we need someone that does Quality Control at the city level!

Mert Erel for District 5 City Council


jim grant December 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Mert I would think you have never run a business / I would also suggest you try and duplicate this if you think you can do better…Everybody is an expert I guess.


Mert Erel December 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I’ve actually owned a family owned business for over 25 years. We’ve hired many Americans and supplied them with jobs. Making assumptions about people is not nice.

I’m sure a grad student at UCSB or any local college would love to design such a thing FOR free so that he/she could use it for his thesis.

I could easily duplicate this. I’m not saying I can build it myself but give me $200,000 and I can build it for $50,000 and I’ll keep $150,000 in my pocket which probably happened.

I know how contracts work. I know A LOT about how public contracts work.

I wish the bid for the implementation and design was for OPEN bidding and maybe I would of bid on the contract. I would be very curious to see where they announced this bid. This was a private contract and how did the company that was awarded get the contract?

Since there is no transparency in the city, good luck finding out!


jim grant December 6, 2011 at 7:10 pm

City sent out the Standard RFP ( I am sure you are familiar) You should have replied. The City or any agency is not going to ask you to design one…come on…You gotta be smarter than that !! The City looks for Companies that are in this line of work and have a track record.
Don’t embarrass yourself any further.
What ” family business” did you operate ? I did a simple goggle search and came up dry mr erel.


jim grant December 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Too little to late.


mr.rick December 6, 2011 at 7:59 pm

There sure are alot of assumptions going on about what some scruffy looking people do or participate in at the “Wall”. They must have been selling heroin if they vacated the area so quickly. Anyone down there holdig, muchless selling a drug at the “Wall” probably hasn’t been in OB long or they would have that one figured out. The best reason to leave is because you don’t want the man to know who you associate with. But this is all academic as the lot and corner have been being filmed for over 40 years.


jim grant December 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Who s know what they were doing….they hauled a$$ when the tower went up that is all that a handful of locals and surfers noticed. ……who really cares what they were doing. Most of them sell $hit to who ever will buy.
The ” lot and corner” might be on camera ( at least it used to) but that never stopped the homeless scruffy people from selling meth , heroin and other crap to anybody with a 10 dollar bill……..
and its not an assumption.


john December 12, 2011 at 3:18 am

Well Jim at first I’m thinking “okay, a rough terrain scissor lift with all the bells and whistles in that reach range is about $50k… the van about the same ball park. Add a glorified outhouse with an air conditioner and maybe a few batteries (you’d get the generator with the scissor lift) and there’s a lot of of pork here.”
Then I find this:
And it appears some engineering went into this. There are some uses for it.
It’s not clear to me that this is anything other than an extravagant toy that will be underutilized, expensive to maintain, and its main function will be something to show off for PR opportuinities to show what a great job the PD is doing “keeping us safe”.
The city (or even the federal gov’t if they financed it) can ill afford such boondoggles.

The thing is actually pretty ridiculous, I think it will be a hoot to see the hungry 99% at the coming food riots angrily toppling it over with a hapless officer inside previously chilled in air conditioned comfort while the crowds bake in the sun.

It doesn’t bother me as far as surveillance because it’s just a pair of officer’s eyes. If Frank wants to run a shocking article on surveillance vans I’d love to see some coverage of this:


How many of you knew they had this capability? How many of you know that every time SDPD and every PD flies a helo above residences using FLIR (virtually every nighttime sortie) they are violating SCOTUS ruling in US vs. Kyllo (2000)? How many of you know that TWS (through wall surveillance) using millimeter wave radar has advanced to the point where high end units can count the change in your pocket as you walk actross the room, making an absolute mockery of that Supreme Court ruling?
TWS and backscatter Xray units may even have advanced to an airborne package by now, the sensor pods in the 4 Eurocopters furnished to San Diego by DHS after 9/11 were specifically designed as LRU avionics to be effortlessly updated as were their ground support trailers.

Don’t get all worked up over a porta potty on stilts, worry about technology they have been sneaking in all around us already.


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